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Juneteenth Event: Asim, Olayiwola Read from Poetry

Stop & Frisk Reading poster

Associate Professor Jabari Asim will join Boston Poet Laureate and Emerson graduate student Porsha Olayiwola (i shimmer sometimes, too) for a Juneteeth virtual reading hosted by Porter Square Books to celebrate Asim’s new poetry collection, Stop & Frisk: American Poems.

The virtual reading will take place Friday, June 19, 7:00 pm. It is free and open to all, and can be accessed by registering on Crowdcast.

Register for Stop & Frisk: A Juneteenth Poetry Reading

In Stop & Frisk, Asim “ruthlessly interrogates entrenched injustice and its insidious echoes. Part rap sheet, part concept album, Asim lays down tracks which add conviction to our collection broken record: What could be more American than pretending truths were self-evident when they seldom were?” publisher Bloomsday Literary writes. “These starkly revelatory poems expose the dark heart of our nation and call for a reckoning – the only way out before everything breaks/into hurt, noise, and ever after.”

Read: Jabari Asim on the Racist Roots of American Policing and Resisting Despair

Olayiwola’s debut collection, i shimmer sometimes, too, published by Button Poetry in October 2019, “soars with the power and presence of live performance. These poems dip their hands into the fabric of black womanhood and revel in it. Shimmer establishes Olayiwola firmly in the lineage of black queer poetics, celebrating the work done by generations of poets from Audre Lorde to Danez Smith.”

Jabari Asim headshot
Associate Professor Jabari Asim. File photo

Juneteenth is the annual celebration of the end of slavery. It commemorates the day in 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed, when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger read federal orders in Galveston, stating that all slaves in Texas were free.

Asim, in addition to teaching in Emerson’s Writing, Literature and Publishing department, where he is program director of the Creative Writing program, is also the first Elma Lewis Distinguished Fellow in the Social Justice Center, and organizes Emerson’s annual Teach-In on Race. The Teach-In is a daylong conference that brings together academics, activists, and students from inside and outside the College.

Formerly an editor at the Washington Post and editor-in-chief of the NAACP’s flagship publication, The Crisis, Asim has written 17 books, including fiction, nonfiction, and children’s literature. His most recent collection of essays, We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies and the Art of Survival, was named a 2019 PEN America Literary Awards finalist, and an essay from the collection, “Getting It Twisted,” was included in the 2019 Best American Essays anthology. He has two more books due out in 2020: My Baby Loves Halloween, and Mighty Justice: The Untold Story of Civil Rights Trailblazer Dovey Johnson Roundtree.

Porsha Olayiwola in lobby
Boston Poet Laureate and Emerson graduate student Porsha Olayiwola. File photo

Read: Olayiwola Receives Academy of American Poets Fellowship

Olayiwola is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing, as well as a writer, performer, educator, and curator who uses afro-futurism and surrealism to examine issues in the Black, woman, and queer diasporas. She is an individual World Poetry Slam Champion and the artistic director at literary youth organization MassLEAP.

New SJC Live Series

Also on Juneteenth, the Social Justice Center will launch a new SJC Live series, “Creativity as Fugitivity: Seeking to Build Spaces that Disrupt Structures of Violence,” at 12:00 pm on Facebook.

SJC Live is a series of conversations that centers the people and work of racial justice movements, and calls us to undertake anti-racist action.

From the SJC:

So much work of activism, social, and environmental justice right now is, by necessity, about crisis management. When then do some activists, immigrant and labor leaders, refugees, COVID-19 frontline workers, and creatives who are dedicated to social justice intentionally slow down in the eye of the storm? Specifically, why do they seek to build fugitive spaces, where, as Dr. Bayo Akomolafe puts it, “We can shape shift, grieve, mourn and even have pleasure?”

This five-part series will explore this work with people who have long been among the most impacted by structural violence, which they must also navigate with every creative step: creatives of color in Boston, grassroots immigrant movement leaders, war-displaced founders of self-governed squatter settlements in Colombia, and K-12 educators building relationships to create anti-racist practices.

The series begins with a conversation between Vice President for Equity and Social Justice Sylvia Spears and Elma Lewis Center Executive Director Tam Marko, about creativity and fugitivity, and why they have a daily practice of intentionally moving into spaces and communities where they can be still, or dance, sing, and create a way through structures of violence.

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